Credit Advice

Opening retail account can save money during the holiday season

Have a question?

Do you have a question about consumer credit? You may find an immediate answer by using the search engine. If you can't find what you're looking for, please fill out the form, being as specific as possible.

Please note: The Ask Experian team cannot respond to each question individually. However, if your question is of interest to a wide audience of consumers, the Experian team will include it in a future column.

Our policies
The information contained in this column if for educational purposes only and is not legal advice. You should consult your own attorney or seek specific advice from a legal professional regarding your particular situation.

Please understand that Experian policies change over time. Column responses reflect Experian policy at the time of writing. While maintained for your information, archived responses may not reflect current Experian policy.

Credit Advice

Opening retail account can save money during the holiday season

Dear Experian,

While doing Christmas shopping, is it possible to save considerably if I accept a merchant’s credit card? Does this influence my credit score even if used infrequently?

- HTO

Dear HTO,

During the holidays, retailers often offer discounts for opening a credit account with them because it attracts customers and tends to build brand loyalty to keep you coming back.

You may have noticed a new trend in that the credit card is quite likely to be a general use credit card that is co-branded with the store’s name on it. The benefit to you is that it can be used at any store that accepts major credit cards.

If you are making a large purchase, you could save a lot of money that day.

But be careful. If you fail to pay the entire balance by the end of the billing cycle, you may have to pay more in interest than the discount you received by getting the new account.

Any time you open another account you must be cautious about adding debt that you can’t pay in full that month, and you must always keep in mind how much you owe compared to your credit limits. The positive is that a new account can help credit scores by lowering your overall utilization rate.

Just don’t get carried away applying for retail accounts if you are going to apply for a car loan or mortgage loan where the interest rate is very sensitive to risk. Applying for too many accounts in a short time can temporarily hurt your credit scores.

Instead of applying every time you are given the chance, research where you will save the most by doing so and limit your applications to those stores. It can be an excellent way to use credit to your advantage. But, like any other credit card, you must use it wisely.

Thanks for asking.

- The "Ask Experian" team

  • © 2014 Experian Information Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved.